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Dating methods


Compulsory attendance


Admission requirements

Admission to an MSc programme in Archaeology.


This course will focus on the following dating methods:
Radiometric dating: radiocarbon including advanced applications (statistical analysis, reservoir effects), proper assessment of the data obtained.
Luminescence dating: TL, OSL.
Geology: K/Ar, U-series isotopes, ESR relevant for archaeology.
Chemical methods: racemisation, stratigraphies (magnetic, tephra, ice, marine stages).
Dating Pleistocene sites.

Course set-up:
1) C14: natural radioactivity, dating principle, C14 timescale, isotope effects, calibration.
2) C14: statistics, wiggle matching, Bayesian analysis, applications in archaeology.
3) C14: reservoir-effects & stable isotopes, C14 for the archaeologist (“what’s in a date?”).
4) TL, OSL (guest lecture by J. Wallinga).
5) isotope geology relevant for archaeology: dating by U-series, K/Ar, ESR.
6) chemical methods and biostratigraphy: racemisation, palynology, isotope stages (lecture by T. van Kolfschoten).
7) dating Pleistocene sites (Boxgrove, Happisburgh, Schöningen, Dmanisi, etc.)

Course objectives

  • Advanced knowledge of dating based on scientific methods;

  • Ability to assess chronological inference in archaeological research questions.

Ects distribution

The course load will be distributed as follows:

  • 7×2 hours of lectures;

  • 420 pages of literature.


Course schedule details can be found in the MA time schedule.

Mode of instruction

  • Lectures;

  • Discussion session.

Assessment method

Essays; one about a specific dating method, the other about a relevant case study.

Assessment deadline

The essays need to be completed within 1 month after the last class.
Exam dates and assessment deadlines can be found in the examination schedule

Reading list

  • M. Walker, Quaternary Dating Methods.

  • Handouts.


Register for this course via uSis.
Instructions for registration can be found in the uSis manual.

Contact information

For more information about this course, please contact J. van der Plicht.